California, hawk, birds of prey
Photo by Ryan Lee Price
In California, it is illegal to kill birds of prey, similar to this hawk.

California game wardens in Lassen County say they discovered the grisly scene: the site of the largest raptor poaching case in state history. They received an anonymous tip that a 67-year-old Lassen County man shot a hawk with a rifle on his property. They found many dead hawks, lying in piles around the base of telephone poles and trees. Dozens and dozens of the dead hawks and other birds were blasted from their perches.

Arrest Made

Wardens arrested Richard Parker on Monday near the high-desert town of Standish, a few miles from California’s border with Nevada. After receiving the anonymous tip, Warden Todd Kinnard visited Parker’s 80-acre property. As he was approaching the front door, he spotted two dead hawks in the tree and seven around its base.

Counting Dead Hawks

A team of wardens returned Monday with a warrant. By the time their search was concluded, they found 126 dead birds of prey in varying stages of decay. Most were red-tailed hawks, and at least one owl and a ferruginous hawk were recovered.

Other Dead Wildlife

As well investigators also found two dead bobcats that had been shot and left to rot on Parker’s property. Inside his home, investigators discovered a stuffed mountain lion and several non-game birds. It has been illegal to kill mountain lions or to possess their parts since 1991, when Californians approved Proposition 117, which banned mountain lion hunting.

Parker was booked on suspicion of a slew of wildlife charges, including of taking birds of prey, taking non-game birds protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, taking other non-game birds and possession of unlawfully taken wildlife.

If convicted, Parker faces up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine per each dead raptor and $10,000 for the cougar. There is no motive why Parker went on his killing spree, shooting bird after bird with his rifle, then leaving their carcasses to rot.

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